I was in a mood today to roll up my sleeves, chop me some veggies and really commune with the leafy greens, so I decided to make gumbo z'herbes. The name is a contraction of "gumbo aux herbes," and it's also known as green gumbo.
This is not like the gumbo you probably know. There's no okra, no andouille sausage. It turns out that gumbo z'herbes is traditionally prepared on Holy Thursday to be eaten on Good Friday. Fridays in Lent would normally involve seafood, but Good Friday calls for food to be even more scaled back, hence this soup. Don't be scared, though. This soup does not taste like guilt and penitence. It's lush and hearty and completely soul-satisfying; that is, thoroughly Cajun.
You can use pretty much any sort of leafy greens -- kale, mustard greens, even beet and carrot tops -- but I used collard greens, spinach, and chard. Along with leeks, celery, green onions and some herbs, they're sauteed with garlic and spices and file gumbo powder, then pureed and mixed into a roux, along with a dose of Tabasco. The recipe I used calls for you to add smoked ham, but as it seems I have agreed to marry a vegetarian, I omitted it. But I replicated the smokiness by sauteing a chipotle pepper with the greens. (My bottle of Tabasco is also of the chipotle variety, so that helps too.) I can only imagine this soup would be breathtaking with the ham and/or some sausage, though.